Tag Archives: new products

Seeking Free Advice, Consultants Need Not Reply

By Jeff Bowman

Has the evolution of social media tools brought us to the brink of seeing the business consultant on the verge of extinction? As strange as that may sound, it could happen. As a business consultant my job is to examine company structures, programs, products, marketing efforts, sales initiatives and the over arching corporate culture that brings them all together.

In doing this I can create a gap analysis and identify key areas that may be in need of an overhaul, or that are missing altogether. Most often I find that the leaders of the organization either have ear plugs in or blinders on, or both.

Consumer feedback is critical to the business improvement process, but up until recently few companies bothered to ask their current and former clients for their opinion. Enter the Internet, and a myriad of social media tools.  Feedback is now instantaneous and widespread.

Smart companies have taken the feedback process to the next level, and are now asking for customer opinions online through blogs or polls on the webpages, and spreading information through fan pages and tweets.  What was once an inexpensive avenue for marketing messages, delivering coupons en masse and generating buzz is slowly turning into a forum for free advice directly from the consumer.  That’s right, unpaid consultants providing the type of feedback that I might provide for a fee.

The web allows open participation from anyone. Many popular brands have taken to the web to ask for innovative ideas, new programs and suggestions for new product ideas, flavours or branding ideas. User registration allows for the collection of consumer data on a grand scale, that later drives a targeted e-mail campaign and  Voting lines where consumers can select to establish or kill a product line. Some companies release viral ads direct to consumers for their comments before they hit other forms of media broadcast.  There are even companies who openly solicit free advice on their packaging, their promotions, seek “green” advice and openly source new technologies and ideas, that might never have occurred to them inside the corporate fortress.

Alas, the best advice is not always the free advice. In a recent article in Advertising Age, the opening line reads

“Dear consumer, Your 15 minutes are over. You suck.”

Many brands are finding that consultants are still the go-to people for business solutions and professional advice. Despite the glut of cost-free ideas, you often get what you pay for. Smart companies follow the business rule, sell your strengths and buy your weaknesses. The age of consultants is far from over, in fact with the business spectrum changing daily, I think it may just be moving to a higher level, with specialization of consultants into smaller areas of expertise.

Tell us about your consumer feedback.

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Online marketing, Sales, social media

Holler from the treetops

By Stephen Rhodes

“If he who has a thing to sell goes and whispers in a well, he won’t be so apt to make the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers!”
— Anonymous

hilltops Business people are a shy lot. Some are great self-promoters. Some just don’t believe there is much to say.

In our business life there are things that happen that others should know about. Maybe it’s exceptional customer service to a client. Maybe it’s industry recognition. Maybe it’s a new product line or service.

C.J. Hayden, a noted American author and marketing expert, provides this checklist of what’s newsworthy:

  • Winning an award or competition
  • Being elected or appointed to office in a professional or civic organization
  • Obtaining an important new client or contract
  • Giving noteworthy service to an existing client
  • Opening or relocating your office
  • Expanding to serve a new market
  • Offering a new product or service
  • Launching a new or redesigned web site
  • Publishing the first issue of a newsletter
  • Publishing a blog
  • Expressing a unique opinion on a topical subject
  • Being selected to speak at a major conference
  • Completing a survey or study
  • Having an article or book published
  • Getting a mention in the news
  • Landing an interview on radio or TV.

All of these events are newsworthy, some to clients and some to prospective clients and some to the public at large.

When you give great service to a client, ask for a testimonial letter and include it your newsletter, blog, marketing kit and online. Tweet it to the world.

Some of these developments are newsworthy enough for our local media. Write a one-page news release describing what has occurred. If you win an award, describe how it made you feel. If you are elected to office, outline your goals for the organization. Include in your release a brief paragraph about your background and your company’s history.

When you get coverage, capitalize on it. Reprint the articles for everyone on your mailing list. Include them in your marketing kit and in your newsletter. Use them as handouts. Frame them and hang them on the wall of your office. Post links or entire articles on your website.

In other words, holler from the treetops.

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Filed under Marketing, Media, Online marketing, Stephen Rhodes

Survive and thrive tough times

By Jeff Bowman

When the times get tough…smart businesses not only survive, but thrive!

Do you have it?  That ability to adjust, adapt, transform and grow your business in difficult times? The times are changing and businesses are already noticing differences in trends, changing customer buying habits and more importantly, revenue streams.

I don’t want to be a voice of doom and gloom; in fact there are many positive opportunities to take advantage of when things get a little unsettled.  I am not necessarily talking about a huge economic downturn, but any period of uncertainty or change.

Statistics indicate that in the U.S. (our economic upturns and downturns in Canada mirror those of the United States.) there has been nine recessionary periods since 1948.  These periods of belt tightening tend to last about 11 to 12 months on average.  If you do the math, that leaves periods of economic growth and stability lasting approximately 4 years in between each downturn.  I would hazard to say that a great number of fellow business owners have experienced one or more of these downturns.  The question is, during these times are you building for the future, merely trying to survive or drastically changing the face of your business?

I see first hand on a daily basis, the knee jerk reaction of cost cutting by companies -training, sales and marketing activities, not necessarily in that order.  Our business plans indicate our business will grow, sometimes quickly, other times slowly, but grow none-the- less.  It is our sales efforts, our training programs and our marketing plans that provide us with the skills, knowledge and exposure to grow.  Why would these be the first areas to look at in terms of cuts?

If your competitors continue to sell, even harder, arm their employees with new skill sets to be more productive and creative and continue on a carefully charted course of branding, identity and market presence who will be in a better position 10 or 11 months from now to take advantage of the upturn in the economy?

I have a few simple recommendations that you might consider.  First and foremost, do not cut your prices.  Offer more service! Does the value you present with your product or service decrease over time?  If the value doesn’t change why should the price. (Besides, it is more difficult to raise your price a year later without encountering opposition from your client)

Look at new products or services you can add to your current offering.  Increase your knowledge and skills base to make you more strategic.   Look for new opportunities, online, abroad and within your municipality.

Finally, get out and network, increase your sales and marketing effort and take advantage of opportunities that will present themselves when other companies retrench. You can survive or you can thrive, it is totally up to you.

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Marketing